The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.
Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither flight nor fight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and oppressors free. (Walter Brueggeman)
Peace to every land that faces stress, crisis, tension, or struggle. Peace to every community that searches for justice, reconciliation, and restoration. Peace to nations suffering from natural disasters and trying to rebuild. Peace in the hearts of leaders who can resolve the divisions between human beings. Peace to those of every faith who pray for peace and work for peace. Peace in the kinship of hope between us all. Peace for our elders and our children. Peace in our minds and in our hearts. Peace to all living things. Peace, we pray, peace. (Source: Bishop Steven Charleston)
Praying for peace and justice when we’re tired – tired of the years of the COVID pandemic, tired of war, tired of corruption, tired of recalcitrance and hesitation in addressing the climate emergency, tired of battles for justice on multiple fronts, tired of racism and all the other ‘isms’. Just tired. This prayer by Laura Jean Truman resonates, and so pertinent on this International Day of Peace. (Other resources and prayers can be found here)
A Prayer for the Tired , Angry Ones
We’re so tired.
We want to do justice, but work feels endless, and the results look so small in our exhausted hands.
We want to love mercy, but our enemies are relentless, and it feels like foolishness to prioritize gentleness in this unbelievably cruel world.
We want to walk humbly, but self-promotion is seductive, and we are afraid that if we don’t look after ourselves, no one else will.
We want to be kind, but our anger feels insatiable.
Jesus, in this never-ending wilderness, come to us and grant us grace.
Grant us the courage to keep showing up to impossible battles, trusting that it is our commitment to faithfulness, and not our obsession with results that will bring Your shalom.
Grant us the vulnerability to risk loving our difficult and complicated neighbor, rejecting the lie that some people are made more in the image of God than others.
Grant us the humility of a decentered but Beloved self.
As we continue to take the single step that is in front of us, keep us from becoming what we are called to transform. Protect us from using the empire’s violence – for Your kingdom of peace.
Keep our anger from becoming meanness.
Keep our sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.
Keep our hearts soft enough to keep breaking.
Keep our outrage turned toward justice, not cruelty.
Remind us that all of this, every bit of it, is for love.
Keep us fiercely kind.
Source: Laura Jean Truman, in “A Rythm of Prayer: A Collection of Meditations for Renewal” edited by Sarah Bessey
It’s always great to hear what’s happening with Inter-Church Councils.
The Chelsea and District Inter-Church Council held its AGM on 24th August, 2022. Elisabeth Crombie was re-elected President. She reported on recent highlights.
In 2021, because of the uncertainty of COVID, the ICC planned a virtual concert. They contacted some of the regular acts and organised for them to video their presentations. The contributions were collated and each of the ICC Ministers screened the result on the weekend on which it would normally be held. (You can view the performances here) Some of the churches had a picnic/BBQ as an attraction for the community. ‘It was a lovely way to let everyone know that the ICC was continuing to do everything in its power to put itself out there in Chelsea and the surrounds.
‘2022 also started off on a positive note. We were determined to keep our presence levels up on a high’.
For ANZAC Day acknowledgement, Elisabeth laid a wreath at the epitaph on behalf of the ICC.
At Easter, the ICC celebrated a Good Friday service at Beeson Reserve, Edithvale. ‘The Way of the Cross’ display was set up in the central part of the Reserve. This was the focal point of the Stations of the Cross presentation. The children held up signs for each ‘station’. Wayne McGlone from Longbeach Parish provided the music. The finale piece was ‘Hallelujah’ which moved quite a few of the crowd to tears. All agreed the full service was beautiful presented.
Pentecost Sunday was held at St Chad’s with Rev Sue Bluett leading. It was a spiritually filled afternoon.
Elisabeth concluded, ‘I look forward to another year of solidarity and companionship as we fulfil the role of spiritual outreach amongst our many patrons once more’.
Congratulations also to Sue Hyde (elected Secretary and Treasurer) and Rev Judi Turnham elected as Vice-President.
Many of us will have been watching the updates following the Queen’s passing, saturating the media in print, on television, and social media.
The Queen’s funeral on Monday has been carefully planned. What may have come as a surprise was the opportunity for 10 ‘everyday Australians’ to accompany the Prime Minister and Governor General to the Queen’s funeral. The PM says the 10 guests represent Australian culture and values.
The invitees include the Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, Senior Australians of the Year from this year and last, Valmai Dempsey and Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, “local heroes” Shanna Whan, Saba Abraham and Kim Smith, the Western Australian Australian of the year, Helen Milroy, the South Australian Young Australian of the Year, Trudy Lin, the i4give Day founder, Danny Abdallah, and the Australian Racing Hall of Fame’s Chris Waller.
So much could be said about each. Today, a focus on Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, who is a devout Christian – baptised as a Catholic aged 15 years of age, she became the first Indigenous teacher in the Northern Territory in 1975, and later became Principal of St Francis Xavier Catholic School. In 2021 she was named Senior Australian of the Year.
She was surprised by the invitation but accepted: “It’s for my community and my family and people here, and hopefully it’s for all of Australia.” (see ABC video here)
The ABC News reports: Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann is widely respected in the Northern Territory and beyond for her advocacy on behalf of members of the Stolen Generation. She was just a child when her two-year-old sister, Pilawuk White, was forcibly removed from her family under the Australian government’s assimilationist policies. Since reconnecting with her sister 14 years later, Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann has called for the Commonwealth to pay compensation for victims in the NT. She has also dedicated her life to giving Aboriginal children the skills to navigate Western and traditional culture.
The 2016 NCLS survey revealed that 17%, or one in six, church attenders had sought or received treatment for a mental health issue in the last 2 years. Those attenders who had sought or received mental health treatment, were asked to rate the support they received from their local church, in regard to their mental health.
Some 37% gave a favourable rating of the support they received from their church, with 14% rating it as excellent and 23% as good. Around one in ten, 11%, rated the support from their church as adequate.
Nearly half of attenders (46%) who had received treatment for a mental health issue in the last 2 years said their church was unaware of it, and therefore unaware of the state of their mental health. For many attenders experiencing problems with their mental health, it may not be relevant that their church knows of it and that their privacy is respected. For others, it may be the case that their local church congregation could provide valuable support.
In 2021, the Mental Health Friendly Church Project in the UK partnered with Christian think tank, Theos, to conduct qualitative research with church leaders and a quantitative study of over 1,000 regular church-goers. Kintsugi Hope wanted a clear understanding of the attitudes towards mental health to enable resources which were tailored directly to the current needs of the church and the communities they serve.
Interviewees overwhelmingly agreed that churches can help people experiencing mental health issues. However, the research indicated a clear need for more local churches to create welcoming, safe and supportive mental health friendly communities.
91% of church leaders interviewed had received no training in mental health, despite mental health being identified as an ongoing need and issue within the church;
56% of interviewees said their church rarely or never spoke about mental health;
Only 35% of the interviewees agreed that they felt positively supported by the church concerning their own mental health.
The World Council of Churches Assembly concluded on September 8th 2022, and issued a Draft Unity Statement (First Revision). Definitely worth a read and further consideration. Maybe church leaders and Interchurch Councils/Combined Churches can work their way through the statement and reflect upon it? Maybe shape some content for input for a sermon on World Communion Sunday (October 2)?
Para 15…There is a move amongst some to emphasize the experience of ecumenism more than formal agreements and a recognition that as we first walk together on our common pilgrimage of reconciliation and unity, we are then also led to reflect together on questions of faith and truth. The churches’ responses reveal a longing for an ecumenism in which we bring all of ourselves to the journey and to the table, not separating thought from prayer, prayer from action, or action from thought.
Para 18. The work of unity needs to be inspired anew by the love we have seen in Jesus Christ. It needs to begin with the love of the heart, the love that responds to Christ who said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The love of Christ is the spiritual source of the ecumenical movement. It moves us to walk together, compels us to pray together, and urges us to respond to Christ’s invitation to be of one spirit and one mind. The quality of the relationships between us and our churches will inspire our journey and our common work towards that full visible communion for which Christ prayed (John 17:20-23).
Para 19. It is when we are kind to one another as churches, warmly welcoming of each other, building profound and evident friendship in sincerity and respect, when we are drawn to one another out of compassion, fascination, and longing for one another – across our differences and divisions – that we will find the grace to search for that common faith, the truth together held that will overcome our separation. Unity in apostolic faith, in sacramental life, in ministry, and in the work of sharing in common action together, all need our heads, hands, and feet, the whole of us, to be fully engaged (1 Cor. 12). But the vital search for agreement in faith, the working together in service to the world, the walking the way of discipleship together; all these are stirred by the love of Christ, who moves our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Para 20. The search for unity that is inspired by love and rooted in deep and mutual relationship may be termed an “ecumenism of the heart.” It is Christlike love that moves us to walk honestly and wholeheartedly beside one another, to try to see the world through the eyes of others and to have compassion for one another, to build the trust that is such a vital part of our ecumenical journey. It is love that will reject any distorted kind of unity that overcomes, overpowers, or coerces the other, and neither will it settle for a weak type of encounter that is merely formal. This love goes beyond every level of restriction and restraint; it is not abstract, sentimental, soft, or romantic, but is embodied and whole, witnessed in the visible and the practical, in the passionate and the truly challenging, able to address the deepest evil and injustice.
Para 22. An ecumenism of the heart springs from an experience of the love of Christ stirring in us the metanoia that purifies our hearts, minds, and wills so that we are able truly to embrace one another. This love can also make us witnesses to love in the world. The churches, the nations, the communities of our world today, and the whole of creation are groaning and crying out in pain, and it is the very love of God working within us that opens our ears and hearts to their cries. We have been walking together on the way towards visible unity, and we have learned, even on our bumpy pilgrimage, that only the love of God can get us moving together to enter faithfully into God’s new future. Churches committed to growing in communion with one another, to true love for one another across even profound differences, will live in ways that are deeply counter-cultural in today’s world.
Para 23. Let us pray that we will never seek to divide or conquer, to exploit or humiliate, to overwhelm by violence or enforce unity; nor to collude any more with the inequalities of the world. Let us not be tempted by politics that is shaped by deepened individualism, dangerous nationalism or increasing militarism; or accept as inevitable the systemic inequalities that divide the world; or suffer without resistance the dominance and dangers of consumerism and of those technologies that alienate us from one another or that damage our God-given humanity. Out of love, we commit ourselves to build a world for the common good, for all humankind. We long for the kind of communion that celebrates and affirms the dignity of all people and honours the whole living earth as the work of God the Creator. Together in Christ, formed in Christ’s image, walking the way of love, and in repentance, we celebrate unity as both gift and virtue, knowing that we are called to bear witness to communion in a world that too often creates and exacerbates division. In a world of separation, inequality and injustice, Christ calls his followers to witness to the unifying power of the love that is a gift of the Spirit. This provokes a strong challenge in the world and sounds a call to an alternative order, one moving towards unity and reconciliation of all humankind and of the whole creation.
Holy God, source and creator of all things, eternal love, we give thanks to you: Father, who loves us infinitely, Son who reveals to us unconditional love, Holy Spirit who empowers us with divine love, gather us together in your love, that we may grow in visible communion and so witness to unity in the world. Where your people are broken, may love mend. When hatred shouts in the world, let love bring peace with justice. As creation groans, may redemption come to all the earth. Come with your divine love, and enter our hearts. Move your church, and move the world to reconciliation and unity. Amen.
Queen Elizabeth. A life of service and commitment to her people, and to the world*.
May she Rest In Peace and rise in glory.
God of us all, our life is a moment in time, and you are ever enduring. As we remember the life of a remarkable person, we also reflect on the significance of what we offer in the time that we have.
Queen Elizabeth II will always be remembered for her moment in time, for her service and legacy, and as a deeply prayerful, devoted, and faithful person. Her faith sustained her. Her faith formed her. With your presence and love, she grew in strength to live out her calling and follow your Way in a position of influence across the globe. As a woman in leadership, in a time when that was rare, she modeled a true representation of ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female;’ for we are all one in you, Christ Jesus.
We thank you for her leadership that represented compassion and care for all those across the world. She created a network looking towards a ‘common wealth’ for all, and offered space for grace, encouraging disparate relationships to be healed. She served with dedication and commitment, but also, through a life of devotion in heart and soul, mind and strength. We are thankful for her intelligent and thoughtful approach in her living, her grace and quiet dignity, and her calm and inner strength, through so many tumultuous moments as well as joys and celebrations. Thank you for her deep love for all creation and for all your people, and for continually being aware of what was on the horizon, and drawing people towards a common goal.
May peace and solace be with all her mourn her. May your presence and warming Spirit surround this time of grieving as change is always unsettling and uncertain. May we also look to our own moment in your Kairos time that we, too, listen and learn from you, walk and talk with you, and grow in calm grace, and stillness of the spirit, while living with active justice and being people of peace. To you, we turn, in our grieving of what is passed and our hope for the future, knowing you walk before us and draw us forward in love. Amen
In light of the Royal Commission and National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, it is critical to embed a child safe culture into every single organisation. This involves any organisation that has contact with children or young people, either directly or indirectly. To help children and young people thrive, every member of an organisation needs to understand their role in keeping children safe and preventing child abuse and neglect.
Child Protection Week is the first week in September every year. The 2022 theme is ‘Every child in every community needs a fair go’
An opportunity for congregations to highlight the 11 standards for child protection introduced in 2022. Victoria’s Child Safe Standards are a set of mandatory requirements to protect children and young people from harm and abuse.
National Child Protection Week will continue to embrace the overarching message that ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go’. In particular, the priority for children growing up to be safe and supported.
Children and young people thrive when they grow up safe, connected and supported in their family, community and culture.
They have the right to grow up in environments that support them according to their needs, now and into the future.
To grow up safe and well, children and young people to:
feel loved and safe
have a positive sense of identity and culture
have material basics
be able to learn
be able to participate.
This year let’s talk about how we create a supportive environment for every child in our congregations, and faith communities.
National Child Safety Standards – NCCA (National Council of Churches in Australia) This framework of 10 standards for child safety is the first of its kind for churches and faith-based organisations in Australia. It encompasses the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Royal Commission recommendations and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. The NCCA engaged the services of Child Wise – an organisation which has pioneered the use of child safety standards in Australia – to consult with NCCA Safe Church Program members to develop the best resource possible. The NCCA Child Safety Framework is a suite of five documents that each builds on the other as outlined below. It is available for purchase by heading to our online shop here or using the shopping cart icon below.
Culture of Safety Unit(Uniting Church – Vic/Tas Synod) Josh Tuhipa-Turner, Safe Church Coordinator Josh is a social worker who has worked in child protection, adult offenders, youth justice and with sex offenders and training. Josh is responsible for:
Safe Church Training for implementation of safe church policies.
Advice about the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
Implementation and support of the Synod’s Person of Concern policy.
Advice about implementing Safe Church policies, including the UCA Child Safe Policy and Working with Children/Vulnerable People Check/Registration.
Josh can be contacted Tuesday-Thursday by email or on 03 9116 1438
Candice Coles, Culture of Safety Advisor Candice is a social worker who has worked in family services, youth mental health, training and policy implementation. Candice is responsible for:
Assisting with resourcing and implementation of the Synod’s Child Safe Policy.
Advice about the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
Being the contact person for Direct Personal Responses as part of the National Redress Scheme or through other redress processes.
Providing support and direction for Reportable Conduct issues.
Candice can be contacted Monday – Thursday by email or 0499 408 889
National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021 – 2031 Safe and Supported The National Framework was developed by the Australian Government, in collaboration with State and Territory Governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and the non-government sector. It provides a framework for how all these groups can come together to make sure that every child inAustralia is safe and supported. The first implementation plans will be released in mid-2022.
Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
Diversity is respected and equity is promoted.
Our people are suitable for work with children and committed to the values of child safety and wellbeing.
Child-focused complaints processes
Our people are provided with ongoing education and training on child safety
Physical and online environments promote safety
Policies and procedures document child safety
Review and continuous improvement of policy, procedure and practice
The 11 Child Safe Standards (Victoria)
Click on the links below to see the minimum requirements and compliance indicators for each Standard. Every organisation that works with children including churches and congregations needs to document how they will implement each standard.
Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.
The Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot (CRISP) will allow groups of everyday Australians to get involved in welcoming refugees into their local community from ‘day one’ of their Australian journey. The program will support 1,500 refugees over four years.
The CRISP is inspired by the successful community refugee sponsorship program operating in Canada since the late 1970s, which has enabled more than 325,000 refugees to build a new life in Canada, in addition to those resettled under the government-funded resettlement program. Similar programs are now being implemented in many countries around the world, including the UK, US, NZ and Ireland.
CRISP is based on community support, where a group of five or more adult volunteers (known as a ‘Community Supporter Group’ or ‘CSG’) will provide 12 months of practical hands-on support to a refugee household from their date of arrival in Australia. CSGs can be based in a community anywhere in Australia, provided they can demonstrate capacity to provide appropriate support to a refugee household within that community.
Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) will approve, train and support CSGs and connect them with a refugee household referred into CRISP.
Refugee participants in this program will be those referred to Australia for resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees having been identified as in urgent need of resettlement. They could come from a wide variety of countries and may have been waiting for the opportunity to resettle in a safe new country for a long time.
‘It takes a village to support a family’. Imagine if the churches harnessed ‘people power’ to provide practical support to new refugees, after so many years of advocating for change in refugee policies.
Might this be something a local congregation could support, or local churches in an area working together?
(Here’s a story from NSW about Gosford Anglican church sponsoring a refugee family settling on the New South Wales Central Coast)
Welcoming and Inclusive: Actions for Churches in response to people with disabilities and mental health issues – a joint conference between the Victorian Council of Churches and the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
When: Saturday 8 October 2022, 9:15 am – 5 pm
Where: Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Crescent, Parkville or Online
Cost: $40 for Metropolitan participants/ $25 concession and non-Metropolitan participants/ $10 online participants. Catering provided.
Both Federal and Victorian Governments have been part of significant reforms in relation to mental health and disability. Most significant has been the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, despite these reforms, too many people with disabilities and mental health needs still face abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. These issues have been highlighted by numerous Parliamentary inquiries and the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
Theological response to people with disabilities and mental health issues have also shifted, becoming more aware of the impact of our theology and language on Christian perspectives and responses to disability. Many churches have also made efforts to be welcoming and inclusive. At the same time, people with disabilities and mental health issues still struggle to find churches that make them feel welcome and fully included.
The conference will provide opportunities to explore the ways in which churches can be part of advocacy for further reforms by governments. Together we will also explore how congregations can be more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities and mental health issues.
Rev Dr Andy Calder, Disability Inclusion Advocate Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania (see link here)
Andy has previously held roles as chaplain at Prahran Mission, and senior chaplain at Epworth HealthCare, Richmond. Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities. Andy is committed to ensuring people with disabilities are full and equal participants in all activities of the Synod. Andy is also Director of the John Paver Centre, a Clinical Pastoral Education provider.
Emma Kealy, Shadow Minister for Mental Health
Like many young people, Emma left the country to further her education, and attained a Degree in Biomedical Science at the University of South Australia. Emma has lived and worked in Hamilton, Melbourne and the Northern Territory, before making the decision to return to Edenhope to raise her family in a country environment. Emma has worked at senior levels in the health sector including Western District Health Service in Hamilton and as Chief Executive of the Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital. Emma is involved in many community activities, including having served on the Edenhope College Council, delivery of an Anglicare program to support and connect young Mums in Edenhope, Relay for Life and helping out at the Lake Charlegrark Country Music Festival. She became the Member for Lowan in November 2014.
Program 9 am Gathering & Registration – Tea and coffee will be provided on arrival 9:15 am Introduction – Acknowledgement of Country and opening reflection 9:30 am Keynote address – Theological reflection on disability and mental health – Rev Dr Andy Calder 10:30 am Morning Tea 11 am Keynote Address – Ms Emma Kealy, Shadow Minister for Mental Health 11:30 am Panel Session – What reforms are needed from governments to ensure people with disabilities and mental health issues can lead flourishing lives? 12:30 pm Lunch 1:15 pm Panel session – What role should the Christian community be playing to welcome and include people with disabilities and mental health issues? 2:15 pm Workshops 3:15 pm Afternoon tea 3:45 pm Reflection – Discussion on where to next and what participants will do as a result of the conference 4:45 pm Closing Worship 5 pm Finish – After conference drinks and nibbles
Workshop Options Please list your top three workshop options when registering online. Workshops will be run based on the number of participants, and will not run if not enough participants register interest. Each workshop will aim to look for a specific way forward in each area. *You will be prompted to enter your top three workshop preferences when you register. Please note your preferences before registering as once you are in the ticket purchase section, you will be unable to see the workshop options.
The workshop options are:
1. Designing a protective systems that works for people with disabilities and mental health issues
2. What would it take to provide a society where people with disabilities and mental health issues can flourish?
3. Rethinking our theology on disability and mental health
4. How can congregations be more inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities and mental health issues? – Including examples of congregations that have created welcoming environments
5. Down to Ten Days Campaign – addressing housing needs for people with disabilities – Dr Di Winkler, CEO, The Summer Foundation
6. Responding to mental health issues in the criminal justice system
A 24-page reflection booklet on the Assembly theme, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”, notes this is the first time “love” has been part of an assembly theme and calls for an “ecumenism of the heart” in a broken world.
“Many people among the churches are urging that our seeking of unity must be not only intellectual, institutional, and formal, but also based on relationship, in common prayer, and, above all, in mutual affection and love,” the text asserts (p. 19).
God’s foremost attitude to the world is love which “more than ideas and ideals, gathers, inspires, and creates unity”. As the language of our faith, love “can actively and prophetically engage the world as we see and experience it today in a way that will make a difference for a shared tomorrow” (p. 20).
“Those who are in Christ, . . . are called to do so in this world, . . . living as a sign and a foretaste of the kingdom to come and making visible the love that fills our hearts with joy, even on the bleakest days” (p. 4).
Churches are called to be a sign of this sacrificial love of Christ. “This witness does not come from human effort alone . . . but is made possible by the love of Christ working in us” (p. 16).
Further, churches are not only witnesses to the world but, as part of the world God has made, “Already, within the church itself, the world is being gathered into unity” (p. 17).
Affirming the need for a “renewed ecumenical movement for the sake of the world”, the text says that churches “are called by the risen Christ to be ‘sent’ into the very public and open spaces of the world, to reframe our corporate sense of what matters, to make idols fall, and to be part of welcoming the kingdom of God in which the poor are blessed and captives set free” (p. 23).
Differing understandings about the nature and mission of the church have been either an overarching or an underlying theme in many ecumenical dialogues over the years, and during the 1970s, the concept of koinonia (communion) has emerged as central to the quest for a common understanding of the church and its visible unity. The term has proved helpful ecumenically, offering a biblical basis for the churches’ search for unity and for their common engagement in service and mission. Dialogue about the reign of God has also affirmed the notion of koinonia as descriptive of the right relationships God wills for the whole of creation. Bringing the two themes together, there is an emerging consensus about the relationship between the church and the reign of God in which the church, precisely as koinonia, is affirmed as a sign, instrument, and foretaste, as a “kind of sacrament” of God’s eschatological reign.
Of particular interest is the third phase of the international Reformed/Roman Catholic dialogue on The Church as Community of Common Witness to the Kingdom of God, which makes use of case studies from Canada, South Africa, and Northern Ireland to explore how the two churches’ actions on behalf of social justice reflect their understandings of the church’s role in relation to the reign of God and what that has to say about the specific ecclesiology of each (nos. 68-123).
Reflecting on the case studies, the dialogue report states: “There is no disagreement between us regarding the basic affirmation that the church is and should be a community of common witness to the kingdom of God.”
Further, “Our common understanding of the kingdom enables us to read together many of the signs of the times” (no. 157).
In the final chapter of their report, members of this dialogue group affirmed the dialogue itself as a form of common witness as well as a challenge to renewal in both churches. They assert, “In a fundamental sense, our dialogue itself is already an act of common witness, a reconciling experience that calls for further reconciliation of memories as obedience leads us to unity in faith and action, to a common witness in which the signs of the Kingdom are shared with the poor” (no. 198).
With its participants coming together from all over the world, this WCC Assembly, too, will provide opportunities for dialogue calling the churches to ever greater fidelity in their common witness to the kingdom of God.
Download the booklet (PDF) reflecting on the WCc theme.